Thursday, 26 February 2015

Harry Potter: Series Review


It dawned on me a while ago that I have never reviewed a Harry Potter book before. This series holds a really special place in my heart (and on my bookshelf!), and since I've decided to dedicate this month to reading the books yet again, what better time to review them?

Before I start, I want to say that even though this is a really long post, I could fill over a million pages with half the thoughts and feelings I have about Harry Potter. This is a highly condensed version of my thoughts and I haven't been able to fit everything in. With that in mind, I will begin!

I have been lucky enough to pretty much grow up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. They were the first proper books I read and I remember feeling really proud and showy-offey when lugging my huge edition of Goblet of Fire around with me at the age of six or seven, when most of my friends were still reading picture books.
From just looking at my editions, it's clear that they have been read a great number of times. They've definitely seen better days, but this is understandable as they've all been read at least 23 times by me alone- not to mention the other members of my family!!

If you haven't heard of Harry Potter, I seriously have to question what you've been doing your whole life. If you haven't read the books (or seen the films at least, for those of you too lazy to read!), I look at you with a face of disgust. Stop whatever you're doing and go and get these books... Now!
The Harry Potter series is pretty much the definition of the word phenomenon and it saddens me to think that people are missing out.

In case there are people reading this who don't know about this incredibly amazing series, Harry Potter, an 11 year old boy, has been living with his Aunt, Uncle and cousin for 10 years, after his parents suffered an untimely death. Never fitting in with their ways, it isn't until a giant of a man called Hagrid breaks down the front door, when Harry understands who he really is: a wizard.
Along with new found friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry explores Hogwarts- the wizarding school he attends, discovers the ways of this new world, and eventually takes on Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard responsible for the deaths of his parents.

Words cannot describe how great the books are. The only way someone can understand just how incredible the stories really are is by reading them all!

Unlike I do with other books, I'm not really going to comment on how J. K. Rowling has written these books. I'm not going to criticise her writing because, frankly there's nothing for me to criticise! I may be a little biased because Harry Potter pretty much introduced me to reading and I hadn't really read any other 'proper' books before them, but now, Harry Potter is what I tend to compare other books to when analysing their writing!

One of my favourite things regarding Harry Potter (and there are many!) is that the books develop with the age of their characters and the age of the readers. Looking at Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, you can see from the length of them that they're written more for children than anyone else. But as the series progresses, the books become heftier and longer, seeming suitable to a slightly older generation of readers. Of course, this is not necessarily the case; I'm positive that I will still be reading Harry Potter long after I am retired!

I love the amount of character development within the novels. Series are so boring when their characters remain exactly the same throughout all of the books. In Harry Potter, we see the main characters go from eleven year old children to young adults over the course of the seven books. It's so lovely to see! But not only do the characters develop really well, they're really relatable, and above all, they're human. In a lot of books, children's especially, the heroes are people who never get anything wrong and are heroic in every way possible. Harry isn't like this, which I think is a really great thing. He's not some perfect role model; he makes mistakes, he is often blinded by love and hatred and he often acts rather rashly. These factors make Harry relatable to everyone because nobody is perfect and this is something we have to deal with in the world.

Another great aspect of the series is the surprise factor. (*SPOILER ALERT!!*) I mean, who would suspect p-p-poor s-s-stuttering Professor Quirrel, Ginny Weasley, Scabbers or 'Mad-Eye Moody'? I certainly didn't! And as for Snape's character, until the very end you couldn't guess which side he was on.

However, my absolute favourite thing about the Harry Potter series is how clever and inventive they are. Each part of the plot fits together like a really complex jigsaw. It's only been though me reading the books over and over and over again that I discovered how intricate the plot lines actually are. You see pieces of information foreshadowed in Philosopher's Stone that aren't actually elaborated on until Deathly Hallows. It's a different experience each time I read these books because I always look at it with a different point of view, therefore picking up different information out of it.

These books have been categorised as 'children's books'. It's a myth. To the adults who feel they're above reading Harry because they don't want to read children's books, you are missing out on so much. Harry Potter is not just a book for children and I hate that it is defined as just that.
How many other books deal with love and loss and bravery and war and wisdom and such a high level of friendship? Not many. Harry Potter is not just a story book. It is a life lesson.
The series isn't just one of those 'everything is perfect' books. People die. People are tortured for their beliefs and status. People are discriminated against and are forced to fight for their rights. How many other 'children's' books cover these delicate topics?
Most importantly, how many other books have created a whole new world, sport, foods, or creatures? I think it would be fair for me to say I am terrible at most sports and I can never remember any of the rules, but I know exactly how to play Quidditch and I'm quite skilled in explaining how it works to new-comers of the series! A version of the sport is regularly played by muggles now, and if I ever come across a Quidditch team, I'll be sure to try out!
While I know barely anything about the creatures I regularly see, I could tell you everything you need to know about Hippogriffs, Boggarts, Grindylows, Kappas, Doxys and Blast Ended Screwts!
The world that emerged from J.K. Rowling's mind is such an intricate and detailed thing. No aspect of it has been left poorly described. I find it fascinating how just one woman has invented the huge thing that so many people know and love.

My favourite quote of all times was spoken by J.K. Rowling at the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. It has meant a lot to me all these years and I think she has really put into words how all Potterheads feel.
"The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by page or the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."

This leads me to my final message to Harry:

Thank you. Thank you for making me who I am today. I wouldn't be the same person without you. You've been my guide when I've been lost. You've been my companion when I've been lonely. You've been like a big brother to me. I look up to you, as I always have. When I'm not with you, I miss you, and as soon as I finish reading about your adventures I can't remember how I survived before. I wish I could put into words how much you've done for me, but it's near enough impossible. This is the only thing I can say:
I love you. I have always loved you and I will always love you. I don't care how old I get, Hogwarts is and will always be my home.

And with that, I say goodbye.

Charlotte xxx

Sunday, 1 February 2015

January Reading Wrap Up

January has been a great month of reading for me!
Towards the end of last year, I hadn't been reading as much as normal, but that reading slump is over now! I've managed to read 9 books this month, which I'm really happy with. I always aim for 100 pages a day, but during the last few months of 2014 I wasn't achieving this. The books I read equate to 3477, which averages out to 112 pages per day!

This month, I have read...
I haven't re-read any books this month, which is quite a rarity for me! As much as I love to read new books and explore different worlds, there's just something comforting about going back to familiar characters and stories.
I've already written reviews for the series I've read. To see my thoughts on Shatter Me, click here, and to read my Mara Dyer review, click here.

An Abundance of Katherines was the first book of the year. It was the only John Green book I didn't read last year, and as I'm a huge fan of his work, I was excited to read this one. In this book, child prodigy Colin Singleton has a problem. He has a thing for girls named Katherine, but it seems they don't have a thing for him. After being dumped by a Katherine for the 19th time, Colin and his friend Hassan escape their hometown to come up with a theorem. Can Colin work out why he is always dumped, and more importantly, can he fix it?
I love all of John Green's books and Katherines is no exception. I love the humour in it and how it's so relatable. This book was short at just over 200 pages, but it was a great escape and unlike most of his other books, it didn't make me mopey and sad for the following week!!

I don't really read many mysteries or thrillers, but I saw the trailer for Before I Go To Sleep and I thought the film looked really good. Since I don't like seeing a film before reading the book, I decided to give it a go. The book is about an amnesiac named Christine. She was in an accident that nobody knows the full details of and since then, her memory wipes itself every time she goes to sleep. Worried that she's not being told the full truth, Christine starts to keep a journel. Soon, she realises there's more to what she's being told...
I was amazed by this book. It started out pretty dull for the first hundred or so pages, but I started figuring things out and it became really interesting. I have to say, I was so surprised at the twist it took at the end. While I expected something like that would occur, I didn't realise the extent of it! I was impressed!

I'm hoping to keep this pace of reading up in February for when I do my 'Harry Potter Marathon'. It has been over a year since I have read a single Harry Potter book, which is far too long! So, February will be my Harry Potter month! Yay!

Bye for now!

Charlotte xxx